The 25 Most Revolutionary Video Games Of All Time

Just like the music and movie industries, the video game industry relies heavily on formula, sequels, and the more-of-the-same philosophy. It’s a business, and the most basic principle of commerce is to make more of what sells.

But also like music and movies, video games are an art form, and there will always be a balancing act to address both their artistic and commercial objectives. It’s not easy to innovate when suits are signing your paycheck, and they’re thinking about the lofty sales targets they have to meet.

That’s why we’re honoring these twenty-five games that dared to challenge the status quo, the ones that refused to be clones and bandwagoners, and in the process, took the industry to new heights.


The game that started it all. Similar to children hitting stones with sticks back and forth, Pong dared to prove that there’s so much more we can do on a TV set than just watch shows, and ultimately birthed the video game industry.

Space Invaders

Strange-looking aliens are marching down towards Earth in perfect formation and only you, standing behind three crumbling covers with your three ships can save the planet. All it took was to figure out the game’s predictable patterns and exploit them, but boy, did we have an awesome time doing it.

Night Driver

You can’t be any more innovative than by creating an immersive driving game with just two rows of vertical lines on a black background. Night Driver dominated the arcades in the early Eighties, and later zoomed into homes via the iconic Atari 2600.


Cute, colorful, captivating. Pac-Man is easy to learn but difficult to master. That’s why you’re always compelled to play just one more game. Little did you realize that while your little yellow chomper was munching those dots, the arcade machine has already gobbled up bajillions of your coins.

Super Mario Bros.

This is the game that catapulted the Nintendo Entertainment System to the top. Meticulously crafted, expertly paced, grippingly challenging, and irresistibly fun, Mario set new standards in game design, character creation, and franchise management.

Virtua Fighter

Together with Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, and Tekken, Virtua Fighter helped usher in the fighting game genre in the early nineties. Featuring interesting characters with different fighting styles and personalities, VF was the first fighting game to feature 3D polygon graphics in lieu of the erstwhile standard 2D sprites.


Affectionately referred to as the most popular Russian export, Tetris could actually give vodka a run for its money. It’s the most popular, most ubiquitous, and quite possibly the most addictive puzzle game of all time. You don’t need an instruction manual to play it. You just look at the falling shapes, push the buttons, and you got it all figured out.


Sim City is the first massively successful sandbox game. The activity is creation. No shooting, no fighting, no racing. You just build a city, keep it functioning well, make the residents happy, and admire your masterpiece from above, like a god marveling at his creation.


We were just gliding through a black screen with a gradient horizon, avoiding big blocks and shooting stuff. But, boy, did it eat up a whole lot of our time back in the nineties. Time we could’ve spent head banging at a Pearl Jam concert.

Prince of Persia

The graphics were jaw-dropping and the animation was smooth and fluid for its time. Famous for both its stunning beauty and punishing difficulty, finishing Prince of Persia requires precision, patience, and persistence.

NBA Live 95

Though its graphics may look laughable now, NBA Live 95 was sweet eye candy for gamers when it first came out. Michael Jordan wasn’t there, but almost all of the other NBA players in 1995 were suited up and ready to go. This game laid the foundation of the yearly incarnation of hoops games we enjoy now, spearheaded by the NBA 2K series.

Leisure Suit Larry

The text-based Softporn Adventure may have been the first adult-oriented computer game, but it was the animated graphics of Leisure Suit Larry and its sequels that brought the genre to the mainstream. Interestingly, the main draw of the series isn’t sex. It’s humor. While gamers enjoyed its ingenious and witty puzzles, they discovered that the games are more rib-tickling than titillating.


Eschewing the more conventional elements of adventure games and essentially dumbing down gameplay to accommodate its lush graphics and erstwhile groundbreaking full motion video, Myst has as many detractors as admirers. But no one can deny the game’s quirky charm and mass appeal, or at the very least, its significance in video game evolution.

Wolfenstein 3D

Wolfenstein 3D pioneered the first person shooter. The geniuses at id Software gave birth to a new genre that would eventually dominate the industry, and inadvertently created a major pillar of online gaming.


Wolfenstein 3D may have invented the first person shooter, but it was Doom that propelled the genre to a new level of notoriety. The most significant innovation was the implementation of multiple vertical levels but it was hardly the most noticed. It was the blood and gore that took centerstage, providing visceral thrills to anyone wishing to release their pent-up aggression.


Riding on the then fledging technologies of full motion video and CD-ROM, Phantasmagoria didn’t dumb down gameplay to accommodate the tech but rather, streamlined and simplified it. Combined with gorgeous artwork, an involving story, and decent acting, it proved that there can actually be a good FMV CD-ROM adventure game.

The Beast Within: A Gabriel Knight Mystery

Going a step further than Phantasmagoria, The Beast Within elevated both the Gabriel Knight series and the FMV adventure genre to the realm of contemporary literature. The graphics are beautiful, the story is riveting, the acting is professional, and the puzzles are challenging. The images of the game will linger in your memory long after you’ve finished it.


The objective is so simple yet so complex: create a civilization and make it prosper through the ages. Notorious as one of the most addictive turn-based strategy games of all time, Civilization will tie you up and pin you down in an endless cycle of just one more turn, even as you see the sun slowly rising outside your window on a new weekday.


The game that most likely holds the record for Most Mice Destroyed, Diablo and its sequels conjured up the perfect spell that enchanted the entire gaming world. We picked our race and feverishly clicked our way through the evil one’s minions, meticulously building our character’s attributes to get it ready for the final encounter with the main man. And what did we do when it was all over? We did it all over again. And again.


It was the first time we played a first person shooter with its story so perfectly embedded, we felt like we were starring in our own action movie (albeit without speaking lines). In place of jarring cutscenes, we get scripted events, making the experience more fluid and more immersive. It wasn’t an interactive movie. We were actually in the movie.

Grand Theft Auto III

GTA III was revolutionary in a lot of ways, the most obvious of which is creating the concept of open world gaming. But what became controversial was the way the game allowed or even encouraged criminal activities. Players can disregard traffic rules, crash into other cars, hire prostitutes, kill innocent bystanders, and steal cars (obviously). The furor about this has since died, but the GTA legacy lives on after even more successful sequels.

Gran Turismo

Affectionately described as a Car-PG, referencing the RPG elements in the racing game, Gran Turismo surprised the industry with its realistic but accessible handling, accurate real world race tracks, quirky license tests, and top notch graphics on a PlayStation One console that was nearing the end of its life cycle.

Metal Gear Solid

Never before nor since has a game so brilliantly broken the fourth wall than in Metal Gear Solid. It had a ludicrous amount of self-awareness that one of its characters even advised us to be thankful that we have free time to play video games, while another asked us to put the vibrating PlayStation controller on our arms so she can do a shiatsu massage.


Who knew that a mere mod to a popular game would spearhead the online gaming revolution? Built on the robust Source Engine code used on Half-Life, Counterstrike hooked gamers young and old in the late nineties, filling up internet cafes, spurring LAN parties, and both forging and destroying friendships.

Wii Sports

A suite of various sports games was the perfect way to introduce to the world, the revolutionary motion-sensing remote and nunchuck controller of the Nintendo Wii. The graphics were basic but the controls were spot on. Suddenly, people could actually do meaningful workouts on a gaming console.

Honorable Mentions:

Warcraft II
You Don’t Know Jack
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Resident Evil
PaRappa The Rapper
Tomb Raider
Assassin’s Creed